Private jet crashes into homes in 'ball of fire'

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The Independent Online

A private jet collided with homes in a "ball of fire" and huge plumes of smoke after putting out a mayday call.

The aircraft landed with a "roar" this afternoon at Broadwater Gardens, Farnborough, Kent. The ambulance service, fire brigade and police rushed to the scene.

The roof of one house was completely destroyed, with black smoke billowing into the air.

One other pilot said he heard over a radio that the plane was carrying five passengers. The situation regarding casualties is not known.

A man named as John told Sky News how he was piloting another plane at Biggin Hill when he heard a mayday call from a Cessna come over to the control tower, with emergency alarms in the cockpit in the background. He said he was landing just ahead of the plane which crashed. He said the pilot said he was experiencing "severe engine vibrations" and the mayday was acknowledged.

"He reported five passengers," John said, which would have included himself. He described weather as "nice and smooth" for flying. John said Biggin Tower told the pilot he was clear to land. A few seconds later the pilot came over the radio again to say the plane was coming in and it "nose-dived out of the sky.

"The radio went dead and black smoke came up." He said he had the impression that the pilot had not been intending to land at Biggin Hill. "Unfortunately he did not quite make it," he said.John said he thought the plane could have been a Cessna Citation which had just taken off and turned to the right, which would explain why it was travelling so low.

The crash site has playing fields, open land and woods nearby. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said they were called just before 2.40pm to a report of a private aircraft crashing into residential properties. The ambulance service and fire brigade were also been sent to the scene, police said. London Fire Brigade sent three urban search and rescue teams along with another search and rescue unit and several fire engines.

Another local resident told Sky that from the engine noise "there was something wrong with the plane". He said of the pilot: "He was trying to keep that plane in the air. "One hundred per cent he was doing everything he could...He obviously knew the lay of the land; he kept hugging the woods." He described the aircraft as a corporate-type private jet.

Another resident said he heard a "roar". John Waite, who lives just quarter of a mile from where the plane came down, told Sky: "I was just sitting in the garden and I heard this very loud engine noise. "There was black smoke which was pouring out for about five minutes after the crash. "At the moment the area is full of helicopters. One has landed at the back of the school which is nearby."

Mr Waite said he and fellow members of the local residents' association had been concerned about the planes landing so close to the nearby Princess Royal Hospital. He said: "They come over the hospital about 700ft above it." Mr Waite added: "We have been trying to enable the Bromley Council to resist the expansion. "I am just worried about those people in the plane. And all those people who were in the houses. I hope nobody was in the house at the time."

Karl Mills, who lives just across the road from the crash scene, also spoke to Sky News. "It nearly hit my house. I thought it was going to hit us," he said. "It was the loudest noise I have ever heard. All I could see was a big ball of fire and smoke coming from the house." Mr Mills described the crash as "unbelievable" and "really frightening".No one at Biggin Hill would comment.